‘Back on stage, it’s a brand new page’

CAST returns to great local fanfare

CAST, the Secaucus community theater group, returned to the stage after a hiatus of over a decade on Oct. 21 and 22 to much fanfare and applause with “The Show Must Go On.” Over nine hundred people came out for the weekend to the Performing Arts Center to see the Broadway musical variety show.
Executive producers Pat DeFerrari and Joan Kashuba brought back CAST, which stands for Community Arts Scholarship Theater, after several requests from Mayor Michael Gonnelli. The theater program originally ran from 1988 to 1999 as a joint effort between the company and the high school drama department until the school split off to take another direction.

“I thought it was important to bring the community of Secaucus on the stage.” – Michael Griffo
The show was written and directed by local author Michael Griffo. The company consisted of 48 cast members, including 18 dancers, and many behind the scenes crew members. The performance featured elementary school age children, teenagers, adults and seniors.
The first half of the show was dedicated to some old CAST Broadway favorites performed in black and white formal wear, while the second half featured more modern tunes with a cast clad in colorful outfits.
The set design was simple: a Secaucus town bench, and a black backdrop with silver stars. When DeFerrari and Kashuba first appeared on stage opening night the audience broke out into applause for the two co-founders.

Singing about Secaucus

The show included a homespun twist on popular Broadway tunes. It opened with the number “A Show by CAST,” sung to the music of the popular Broadway tune, “All that Jazz.”
“We’re back on stage, it’s a brand new page,” sang the ensemble.
The show was riddled with funny interludes such as, “See, I hate when they call it Say-cah-cus, it’s Seeee-cawcus,” and phrases like “I want the Acme back in the center of town!” during “I Want it All” from “Baby.”

Audience reactions

A dance performance to “A Chorus Line’s” showstopper “One” received a big round of applause along with the second half’s tap dance performance to the Cole Porter standard “Anything Goes.”
“[The performers have] beautiful voices and great range of emotion,” said Sally Blenkey-Tchassova during intermission about her impression of the show. “[I] loved it. It is really, really polished.” A professional dancer herself, she was rather impressed with the dance performances.
Many audience members enjoyed the tribute to “Les Miserables” at the end of the first half, like Edie Sadowski, who came out to see her friend Susie Protz perform in the show.
“I think it’s pretty good,” said Sadowski.
“It is just so great,” said Sam Recenello. “‘Les Miserables’ is just fantastic!”
Recenello, Kashuba’s son-in-law, said he married into Secaucus 14 years ago. “She was so great. This is just so nice to see again. We are having a great time.”
“It is great, I love it,” said Rich Hamilton.
“I think they have done a really good job,” said Sharon Jackson, resident of Jersey City. “They are really telling the story of Secaucus.”
Jackson along with her friend Donna Oviedo from Hoboken both felt a bit lost at times when the audience laughed at local references but overall they thought the performances were very good.
The second half kicked off with “Good Morning Secaucus,” a local take on “Good Morning Baltimore.” CAST pulled out a number of town references that were represented by props that included a large cutout of a UPS truck, an impressive replica of the town clock, a giant donut for the Dunkin’ Donuts, mentions of Marra’s and Natoli’s, and even the CVS lady that brightly encourages everyone to use the express checkout line. Pat DeFerrari spoke at the end but before doing so she received a standing ovation along with the performers up on stage.

Performers’ experiences

“I’ve lived here pretty much all my life on and off. I thought it was important to bring the community of Secaucus on the stage,” said Griffo after the show, speaking about his inspiration for writing songs about the town. He starred in a number of solo performances.
“It was a blast to be in the production. It brought back great memories of shows in the past,” said Gina Dovi, who sang and danced in the show. “I’m looking forward to doing more productions in the future. It was so much fun.”
“It was a lot of fun,” said 12-year-old Salma Elsharkawy. “In the beginning I didn’t know most of the songs, but it was a great learning experience just working with people that I never knew before.”
“It was a good experience. This was my first show with CAST,” said Frank Piscotta. He said he has performed in school productions but appreciated the opportunity to perform with adults.
“I’m glad that it went so well for the cast of CAST,” said DeFerrari. “The kids did so well. They really did. They pulled it off today. And that is what it is all about.”
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at afernandez@hudsonreporter.com.

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